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The Fading American Dream

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"We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated Governments in the world – no longer a Government of free opinion, no longer a Government by conviction and vote of the majority, but a Government by the opinion and duress of small groups of dominant men.”
-Woodrow Wilson [U.S. President during World War I]

The policies of George W Bush can be construed as a significant event in American politics. For it has deeply polarized America into one deeply conservative dominated by militia groups, right wing Christian organizations and the other liberal which is steeped in the ideals of an egalitarian society.

The truth of the matter is that the Christian Right, a dogmatic religious movement, is an important constituent of Bush’s Republican Party. They are also the biggest backers of Israel and Bush’s planned war against Iraq. According to Jim Lobe (Conservative Christians Biggest Backers of Iraq War) 69% of conservative Christians favored the war against Iraq. Almost two thirds of evangelical Christians supported Israel’s military action against the Palestinians[1].

The Christian Right denounces abortion, gay marriages and opposes contraception and birth control. They are against the use of condoms to prevent AIDS. Since 2001 the Far Right Christian fundamentalists have assumed positions of power in the Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Drug Administration and on commissions and advisory committees.

The profiles of the appointees are controversial and make disturbing reading. Tom Coburn former Republican Congressman who was appointed to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS is reported to have forced condom manufacturers to label their products as ineffective. Dr. Joseph McIlhaney, Jr, appointed on the HIV and AIDS advisory council has a long and well-documented history of disseminating misleading data on condom failure rates. Dr. W. David Hager, appointed to the FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee, is opposed to contraception. Dr. Joseph B. Stanford, appointed to the Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee, is a strong advocate of abstinence and "rhythm method." Dr. Alma Golden, a Texas pediatrician who was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of Population Affairs is a longtime proponent of abstinence as the only acceptable means of birth control. “Three years later this administration”, writes Stephen Pizzo in his article The Christian Taliban, “has established one of the most rigid sexual health agendas in the Western world”[2].

Christian fundamentalism in America is the self appointed moral conscience of the American Creed and is rooted in religious intolerance. It believes in the inerrancy of the Bible, which is the master plan of God. The Holy Book is the source of wisdom of all matters social, political, and religious[3]. Its worldview is couched in delusional terms with the forces of evil powerfully ranged against it. As Pat Robertson says, ‘It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-biased media and the homosexuals who want to destroy all Christians.’ Paul Weyrich (founder of the Heritage Foundation and the free Congress Foundation) expresses his concern in Manichean terms; “"This [opposition to gay rights, abortion and feminism] is really the most significant battle of the age-old conflict between good and evil, between the forces of God and the forces against God."

In the sphere of education, Christian Fundamentalists aggressively promote creationism, a doctrine that holds the view that earth was created only a few thousand years ago and not billions of years ago as modern science indicates. There is antipathy to the theory of evolution and Darwin is the devil incarnate.[4]

Equally disturbing and ominous to the health of the American Republic is the growth of Militia Groups, which share a common platform with the Christian right in their denunciation of multiculturalism. The militia movement is the strange amalgam of race, religion and politics. The philosophy of the militia groups is the unfettered right of individuals to bear arms. The militia groups suffer from psychotic victim complex with the irrational belief that their government and the UN are persecuting it. The Aryan Nation, another militant group, espouses the cause of White Supremacy. In the church of Jesus Christ at Northern Idaho there is the sign at the entrance ‘For Whites Only’ along with the portrait of Hitler. One of the most notorious examples in recent times is that of Timothy McVeigh who was executed for bombing a government building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Since his execution, McVeigh has become a martyr in the annals of the Militia movement[5].

Combined with the growth of Christian fundamentalism and militia groups is the ascendancy of free market ideology. The mythology of free market is that business is hampered by the nanny state. If the invisible hand of the market were allowed a free hand then there would be wealth creation. Free market ideology demands that the state should be a disinterested spectator while the businessmen go about their elusive quest of the market.

In reality, free market requires the strong support of the state. The economic history of the United States illustrates this fact forcefully: The American State vigorously intervened in the economic life of the nation. As John Gray astutely observed that the foundations of American prosperity were laid behind the walls of high tariffs. Federal and State government were active in building railways and highways. The U.S. economy was opened up with an arsenal of government subsidies[6]. Much of American big business received the largesse of the state in the form of subsidies, tax cuts and tariff protection. Corporate critic Ralph Estes estimated that the public money flowing into corporate coffers in the year 1994 alone was in the region of more than two trillion dollars. Welfare measures for the poor and the vulnerable were pared to the bone.

The direct consequence of market fundamentalism was the creation of economic insecurity by the deliberate government policy of freeing corporations from its social obligations. The freedom of the corporate executives to downsize the labor force, to hire and fire its workers at will destroyed the trust of the workforce[7]. From 1987 to 1991 big American corporations lowered their net payroll by 2.4 million workers. The downsizing happened when corporations made huge earnings. The profits went to the shareholders and CEO’s who gave generous compensation packages to themselves.

This cynical practice produced a crippling sense of economic insecurity among the wage earners. Edward Luttwak in his article, Turbo-charged Capitalism and its Consequences, commented that most working Americans, lacking the formal safeguards of European employment protection laws or prolonged post employment benefits and the substantial liquid savings of their middleclass counterparts in all other developed countries, must rely wholly on their jobs for economic security and live in conditions of chronic acute insecurity. The sense of insecurity has enveloped the entire middleclass including professionals, as they must live on a day-to-day basis without knowing whether they would retain their jobs[8].

More worrying is that though in the American economy there has been a steady rise in productivity in the past two decades yet the incomes for the majority has fallen or stagnated. According to Professor Edward Wolf the richest one per cent of the household owns 38% of all wealth. By 1998 the top 5% had more wealth than the 95% of the population. The bottom 20% has no wealth or savings.[9]

The statistics on Income inequality is equally gloomy: over the last two decades the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest of families grew from 11 times to 19 times. According to a survey conducted by the Fortune magazine showed that in the 70’s real annual compensation for the top 100 CEO’s of American corporations averaged $1.3 million which was about 39 times more pay than that of an average worker. By the end of 1990’s the gap widened: the top Fortune 100 CEO’s took home $37.5 million or 1000 times more pay than the average American worker. Real incomes have stagnated at the middle level and declined at the bottom.

Jared Bernstein, the co-author of The State of Working America 2002/2003, argues that in order to understand why a particular occupation pays less now than it did 20 years ago one has to look at structural changes such as higher unemployment, fewer union protections, lower minimum wages, large and unsustainable trade imbalances. Those are the kinds of factors that work against non-college-educated workers that find themselves with less bargaining power and thus are less able to claim their fair share of the growth.

The deregulated labour market with fewer union protection and lower minimum wages has led to the creation of the underclass, rise in crime, and social tension. The unemployment levels are high among the blacks and racial minorities. The crackdown on crime and drug abuse has increased the prison population. In the last twenty years, the US prison population has risen by 566 per cent, from 300,000 inmates in 1981 to nearly 2 million in 1999. The alarming fact, often suppressed in the mainstream media, is that the rise in US prison population is unprecedented in democratic society. The United States outstrips other developed countries in its rates of imprisonment- 645 detainees per 100,000 of population, which is 6-10 times higher than that of the countries of the European Union[10]. La Monde Diplomatique says that the US prison system makes a direct contribution to regulating the lower segments of the labour market[11]. Recent figures available suggest that about two million persons are incarcerated in US prisons. “This means”, says Dermot Sreenan in his article “The United States of Captivity”, “that the prison population of the USA accounts for 25% of the entire prison population of the world. This figure is even more startling when you discover that the US only accounts for 5% of the global population”. 

The American Dream has turned sour. The power of the American Republic has passed from the hands of its people. Over the years the elected representatives have surrendered the mandate of the people to corporate elites: a regime change without the consent of the people. Social and Economic issues that affect the interests of the majority are framed to suit narrow corporate interests. The vision of the founding fathers of the Constitution has been subverted by stilling the voice of the people. The firewall between the Government and Corporations so essential for democracy has crumbled by the flooding of corporate money into government. The scandal of Enron, which for many years paid thousands of dollars to the Highest-ranking Washington politicians, exposed the cozy relationship between business and the Government. The government of the people, by the people, for the people, has faded for most of the Americans.

1 Conservative Christians Biggest Backers of Iraq War – Jim Lobe – October 10, 2002 – Commondreams.org 

2 The Christian Taliban – Stephen Pizzo – March 28, 2004 – Alternet.org

3 Fundamentalist World – Stuart Sim – Icon books -page13.

4 Fundamentalist World – Stuart Sim- Icon books-pages 13-14.

5 Fundamentalist World – Stuart Sim- Icon books-pages 10-11.

6 False Dawn – John Gray – Granta – pages 104-105.

7 False Dawn – John Gray – Granta – page-108

8 Turbo-charged Capitalism and its Consequences – Edward Luttwak – London Review of Books – 2 November 1995- page 7.

9 The Wealth Divide – The growing gap in the United States between the Rich and the Rest – Edward Wolf – Multinational Monitor – May 2003 – VOLUME 24 – NUMBER 5.
10 The Independent magazine 15 May 1999 quoted in The Week "America: the world's new gulag?" by Sasha Sabramski;

11 Le Monde Diplomatique July 1998 "Imprisoning the American Poor" by Loic Wacquant

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About Socrates

  • Franco


    Before the American hyperconsumerism can be ‘cured’ to accomodate earth’s limitations, someone will have to put a damper on the damned advertisers & the corporations behind them,

    That “someone” you refer to in the above sentence is you Nancy. You, me, and every other American that feels the same.

    To think that it is the fault of advertisers and corporations is not only looking at it backwards, but from a persective of weakness and defeat like a helpless child needing daddy goverment to step in and stop the bad guys.

    How could these corporations sell one product to anyone unwilling to buy it? It is our actions (your and mine Nancy) that support their actions and give power to them in the form of your hard earned money. Claiming we are under their spell and just zombies who turn over our hard-earned money with out a choice on our part is not logical. You are saying you are a person without choice. It’s untrue, unworthy, and unrealistic.

    If corporations can not sell the product it will not be produced, period!!!!!!!

    Fact is that these marketing cartels and corporations can not make a buck until you choose to buy their product. And that Nancy, we the people, have to take responsibility for.

  • Mohjho

    Careful Socrates, before you know it, you will be charged with corrupting the youth and disrespecting the gods; or in other words, an enemy combatant.

    Pass the popcorn please.

  • Good article, Socrates.

    Dreams live on after their dreamers, however, and some dreams leave their marks in the desert of time, Ozymandias-like.

    Perhaps you should review “They Live”, and “The Wind That Shakes The Barley”

  • Martin Lav

    And since they be God-fearing Christians, they get the government funding first of course….

  • gonzo marx

    oh Martin..you so crazy…

    you and Dave both forget one thing when it comes to these militias

    this Administration, and their Justice department, think of said militias as a “faith based initiative”

    just a Thought


  • Martin Lav

    Dave Nalle writes:

    “Militia groups are so 1995. I’d be interested to see some evidence that they’re on the increase, because I haven’t heard a word about them in years.”

    ….but didn’t Dave Nalle also have a Apolytic
    dream a while back that tied a liberal/democratic controlled congress/senate/President to the predictable rise in militia groups. Didn’t Dave essentially blame Clinton and his like for McVeigh and the bombing in Okla. City?

    Good article Socrates, I guess the right has stayed away on this one, since they are busy dishing out mathmatical figures and formula’s on their own articles……


  • Nancy

    There is a lot to amend in American culture, most of it instilled in us from childhood by the omnipresent US marketing cartels which incessantly urge & encourage even the youngest kids to “buy-Buy-BUY”. Before the American hyperconsumerism can be ‘cured’ to accomodate earth’s limitations, someone will have to put a damper on the damned advertisers & the corporations behind them, and that will never happen because they’re too greedy to ever give up either the money or the power.

  • Anand Menon

    If i am correct this is the second article within 2 days that has anticipated the fall of a dream…..the other one being”On the Edge of Packing in Politics”By Mark schannon….what’s happening doomsday-prophesizers on the rise?….or response to reality?

    I’m not sure how far Americans understand these things….but the phrase “American Dream ” is much more than applicable to just Americans.There are a lot of people out there in developing nations like India who dream of the same thing.But at what cost?For example, the race to “keep up with the Joneses” pushes many Americans to work longer hours so they can earn enough to consume all the “right things.” This leaves little time for getting together as a family, or for community or civic participation, which diminishes the quality of community and family life. The average American now spends six hours a week shopping and only 40 minutes a week playing with children – and the average couple only spends about 12 minutes per day talking together!…Its very simple….substitute the word “Americans” with…”Upwardly mobile Indians” and you get pretty much the same effect….The U.S. is seen as a model by so many other people, and the media ..especially the Indian media…which has gone the “American way” and
    is busily promoting materialistic and consumption-oriented lifestyles.

    Also, the Earth can’t support the current level of U.S. consumption and waste, especially if it were extended to the rest of the world. Environmentalists have estimated that we would need about three Earths to support the entire global population at the current U.S. level of consumption and resource use – and about nine Earths to absorb the wastes and toxins generated.
    Also, a materialistically focused culture is especially brutal to lower-income communities.
    The tacit message of the article is that when “isms”….whether it is christian fundamentalism or market fundamentalism…are built into a culture…..or rather allowed to gain ground…the messages the populace is bombarded with also become regulated.It’s hard enough to be poor because you don’t have material necessities, with all the extra work and stress that entails. But it’s especially cruel to have the whole culture bombard you with the message that you’re only a worthwhile person if you buy this or that…..or do things in a certain manner …especially in a manner which agrees with the agenda set by fundamentalists….fundamentalists we have unwittingly installed where they can screw us.

    Anand Menon

  • Nancy

    Catana #13 – no you wouldn’t, tho I thank you for the compliment. I’m too emotional to write my own; they would lack the balance they should have to be credible as blogs. I know my limitations, at least.

  • Socrates

    Dear Nancy,
    Making us brain dead through TV/ media propaganda is an infalliable method of keeping us pliant and consuming.Descartes’pithy saying ‘I think therefore I am’ should read ‘I buy therefore I am.’

    Very recently I saw a movie of John Carpenters ‘They Live’- uncannily captures the media assault on the masses.
    thanks for your comments.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Thank you CR,

    Sorry, Socrates was a Greek philosopher who has a very distinct identity in my mind… I just can’t link you with that name. That’s not meant as a personal comment on you, but a comment on how strongly Socrates and the ideas he used have impressed me.

    Be well.

  • Socrates

    Dear gonzo,
    i have prepared myself for the flurry of F words.
    Glad you liked the piece.

  • Socrates

    Dear Ruvy,

    Thanks for your feedback.

    I apologise if I have hurt your feelings inadvetently.
    I agree that the corporate elements who corrupted Israeli leadership soured the American dream.

    take care my friend.

  • STM

    Dave Nalle wrote: “Militia groups are so 1995.”

    STM wrote: “Militia groups are so 1775.”

  • Socrates

    Dear Dave,
    The militia groups have kept a lower profile in recent years but it would be a mistake to believe that the numbers are not growing. Militia groups use the internet but tend to ‘prefer the lower-profile arenas of online discussion forums and mailing lists over Web sites.’As early as 2004 the militia membership has seen a spurt of growth in atleast 30 states in US.Refer to ‘Quiet Retooling of Militia Movement’ a report dated Sept 7, 2004 released by the Anti-defamation League.

    It will be appreciated that the members of the militia groups do not consider themselves as members of the Rotary club and hence operate under the Radar.so the fact that you have not heard of their activities is not surprising.

  • Equally disturbing and ominous to the health of the American Republic is the growth of Militia Groups,

    Militia groups are so 1995. I’d be interested to see some evidence that they’re on the increase, because I haven’t heard a word about them in years.


  • It is the nature of dreams to be hard to hold onto after waking.

    That American one sure is elusive.

  • Nancy, go get thee a blog please. I’d love to be one of your fans.

  • Nancy

    Aaaagh, Blif – horrible!

  • Bliffle

    Keeping the world safe for Paris Hilton.

  • Bliffle

    We’ve succeeded in monetarizing everything, including the government: for sale to the highest bidder. So the most aggressive among us have united monopolies across broader fronts until government and industry are one unified sovietized whole, determined to keep outsiders outside and increase rewards to insiders as they compete among themselves to display more outlandish patterns of consumption.

  • just a side note in regards to Nancy bringing up sexual/reproductive Issues…

    with the FDA passing the “morning after pill” for over the counter sales, the steam is about to be let out of much concerning these Issues…

    with the ability for active folks to get this Pill, i would assert that the actual instances of abortions (the D&C surgical procedures) will decline tremendously in the next few years

    for those interested, looking up what this particualr drug has had to go through with this Adminstration’s FDA is a comedy of horrors

    at first, the FDA admin banned this drug for over the counter sales without ANY testing having been done by the FDA.. that got a bit of furor started, and the position reversed after the usual lobbying by the drug company that manufactures this pill

    my Thought is that this drug is going to let a lot fo the air out of this debate, since everyone over 18 will be able to purchase it, and NOT have to go to clinics and the like for a surgical procedure, thus removing the stationary target to protest against as well removing the statistics concerning folks choices in the matter

    just a Thought


  • Nancy

    Extremely well written, but hunker down, Socrates: the right wing, Bush apologists, & Reaganite Trickle-downers are about to alight, I’m sure, charging you with being delusional, anti-american, and (horror of horrors) a “leftist moonbat”. Goodness, can you stand it?

    One thing I always thought was interesting is that while fundies & conservatives violently object to supporting hordes of the Undeserving Poor (& I don’t blame them; I object m’self), they refuse to mandate or even allow any kind of birth control on the part of these hordes. You’d think if they wanted to be shed of supporting ho’s and their bastard swarms, they’d go in the other direction and positively legislate birth control if not outright sterilization practices, but apparently they all, to a man (& notice, they’re almost totally & universally MEN who run that sector; their women have no say or rights from what I can see, being Good Christian Wives) seem to rely on wishful thinking and the theory that if you make life hard enough, the poor will stop fucking & breeding. Somehow, I don’t think so. Do wish someone on the right would explain this one to me; the logic escapes me.

    The tactic of wrapping oneself in the flag and/or religion & denouncing ones opponents is an old chestnut; you’d think by now even the average American idiot in the street would recognize it: Goering used it, Machiavelli used it, even Sun used it waaaaaaay back in the beginning of recorded history. I guess that’s no surprise when I consider that most people these days are totally ignorant of anyone who isn’t a celebrity, or which doesn’t pertain to entertainment or consumerism – qualities which have been engrained in the last few generation at the behest of these same corporate masters. Makes for easy control of the masses as well as expansion of profits, hey?

  • :::passes Chris some white cheddar popcorn:::

    well now…still no fireworks yet

    we’ll see when some of the froth at the mouth types find it…

    oh yeah..another “special comment” from Olberman tonight on Countdown…yer gonzo suggests catching it if you can, or scope the transcripts on msnbc.com this evening… i’ll link the video once it’s available

    objects in mirror are closer than they appear


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Chris writes,

    “(that’s a nom de plume by the way, not nom de guerre)”

    On this site, any “nom” is a “nom de guerre,” whether it be a “nom de plume” or not. Your comments above are proof of that.

    I agree that CR’s issues are of some profundity. That is why he rated my answer, which for the most part, agreed with him…

  • Ruvy, as you are the prisoner of your dogma, how do you ever learn anything new? It must be comforting thinking your superstition has all the answers down; dumb but comforting…

    The issues Socrates raises (that’s a nom de plume by the way, not nom de guerre) are indeed profoundly important so I think I’m going to wait to see what on topic responses this interesting piece generates. Pass the popcorn, gonzo!

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    No Chris, I’m not confused at all. I mean CR Sridhar, the author of this piece, who is using the nom de guerre “Socrates.” But go do the internet check I suggested anyway. You might learn something not normally broadcast on the BBC… 😉

  • Ruvy: Do you mean me – or are you confused again?

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    Don’t drag Israel into this. This country didn’t sour the American dream – the corporate shits who corrupted the Israeli leadership did. These are the same corporate shits who have dumbed down education in America, pushed concepts anti-thetical to democracy, helped establish multinationals as the world’s rulers and who await the final fall of democracy in America. Go check the name Carol Quigley on the internet, read his works, and you’ll discover the source of many of America’s problems.

    While you’re at it, type in “banna” and “Nazi” into your search engine, and you’ll pick up a whole fistful of articles and documents describing the relationship between the CIA and the Moslem Brotherhood.

  • oh boy..this one is gonna stir up a shitstorm;


    nicely written and sourced

    ::starts making the popcorn::

    this shoudl get Interesting, prepare to defend yer figures and analysis